When she looked up into his eyes, she saw the man she loved more than she had ever loved anyone holding her in her moment of struggle. He saw this fragile thing that held both fear and embarrassment in her eyes.
She neither need to fear him or be embarrassed. He cared for her more than she knew and more than he would admit.
She righted herself mumbled that she was sorry and ran out into the night. She peeled off the mask and cast it aside. She just could not make herself go back inside, she could not go home for mother would make her attempt this feat again.
She sat on the side of the river bank and began to cry. What was wrong with her?
She was eating herself up inside thinking she was backward and unlovable.
She had loved before but that was so long ago. She had been hurt and betrayed since that time and now she wasn’t sure who she was anymore.
She often made the mistake of comparing herself to the other girls of the village. Having never been out of the village and seeing the bigger world, it was all she knew.
She felt she would never be good enough for him to love her. He had been places. He had seen things . He had know many other women and yet here she was hoping in some way he would see her as someone who was worth the effort of loving.
As she buried her face in her lap, she felt a sob welling up inside her. She wanted to run again but she had no where else to go so she sat with plump tears escaping her soul and rolling down her cheeks.
She felt a scream building up deep within her but she couldn’t scream here in the middle of the village unless she wanted more people standing and staring at her.
So she just sat on the riverbank hugging her knees close to her chest and crying into her lap.
Suddenly from no where she felt a cloak drape over her. Looking up startled, she saw him. He looked so tall, standing up right, from her seated position. He looked like a Greek God standing over her. She smiled slightly through her tears.
He reached to help her up off the ground and she shook her head no, he then, sat down beside her.
If she wouldn’t go with him, he would sit with her.
As he settled himself beside her, he nudged her with his elbow, hoping to make her smile. She did. He asked her if she wanted to talk about her feelings with him. She chose to talk about everything else.
He knew she was trying to avoid saying what was holding her back from being among the people of the village. She just couldn’t be among those who saw her as less than because of her past. She was always the ugly duckling when she was in school and people were unkind. They said things to her that she would never forget.
Now she was expected to walk into a room with these people and she just couldn’t do it. The ugly duckling was still buried deep inside her. She tried to explain it to him not sure if someone as secure as he was would understand.
They sat and talked for hours about her hunts and his inventions. They talked about life. At one point, he pulled a sweet out of his pocket and they shared that. Dropping some of it down the bodice of her dress, she dared not reach for it. They hours passed swiftly. Before she knew it she heard some of the people from the ball walking up the dusty road. She must pull herself away from the lovely conversation they were having and go home.
She stood and dusted off the back of her dress. She was fulfilled and yet she wanted to reach out and hug and kiss him good night but could not find the courage to do so. She bid him a good night and joined the group of walkers.
As she and her sister entered their modest home, their parents asked them if they had a good time. They both said that they did. Her sister started to speak but the young woman began to push her up the stairs, pointing out that they needed to get out of their good dresses. She didn’t need to be tattled on tonight for she had most assuredly had a lovely evening, one of the best nights she could have.
She wished to etch it into her mind and her heart for all eternity.
As they went up the stairs, their mother heard the girls giggle, as she turned to look at them, she saw the dust on the back of her eldest daughters dress and in her heart she knew there was more to the evening than she knew, she also wondered what had happened to her child’s mask???